Fairy tales are not difficult to find in app form. Of all the tales retold in digital (and print), the Three Little Pigs is one of the most popular. But all fairy tales are not created equal. This title is unique, not because the story is especially original, but because of the educational enhancements. Readers of fairy tales will be disappointed if they are looking for a quirky or interesting take on this famous story, but for teachers and parents, this is an app that is set up perfectly to engage reluctant readers.
The story is simple, following the plot of the three pigs and their homes made of straw, sticks and brick. I asked my son (age 6) after the first read through to tell me about the story and he was animated and emphatic about all the major plot points, right up to the wolf being boiled in the pot that the three brothers put under their chimney. I noticed that all the animated elements are perfectly timed to the story's narration ... meaning each element of the plot unfolds in the animation as the story is being told. This computer animation is presented in a small inset window that shares half the space with the text - formatted like an open book. This is good visual reinforcement, but the animation may distract some young readers. Thankfully, flexible settings let you leave all audio and animation off, in 'read myself' mode, if necessary.
The narration is lovely in the three languages I sampled (French, German & English) and sounds like a fluent, native speaker for each. I would love to see Spanish added, but my only real complaint for the voice-over, which highlights as spoken, is that it sounds like it was recorded word for word, rather than in more fluid sentences, giving it a slightly halting quality. The font is a bit small, but clear and easy-to-read otherwise. The swipe-style page turning is also solidly made. This combination of elements doesn't equal the same kind of 'wow' factor many children (and adults) may be expecting in a book app, but does a great job at communicating this timeless story.
There is also nothing especially interactive about this title, if a child is hoping for touch points with sound effects or other treats to tap on. There are two simple but fun, story-related games, accessible from the home page. There are 8 pages of 'spot the difference' challenges and 10 reading comprehension questions (multiple choice and graded at the end). As a parent and former educator, I found the other 'interactive' elements in this book exceptional, too. If you tap on a small icon of a book with "Az" on it, you will see several words on each page highlighted. These highlighted words can then be tapped to see a definition for each word (e.g. "build" is defined as "To construct.").
A second icon of a book with a 'picture' image, provides a visual dictionary for some words within the text, in a similar way (e.g. "fortune" shows as an image of coins). These definitions & images are not narrated, but provide extra information for young readers that is especially useful in an academic setting. This title also comes with 5 languages (English, French, German, Japanese & 2 forms of Chinese - simplified & traditional). These features alone, make this a stellar download for foreign language learners. Overall, this is a solid version of a classic fairytale. There are only educational 'frills' added, beyond the fun 3D animation, and the narration isn't exactly riveting, but all the elements integrate nicely together in app form. Recommended.
Note to readers: This review was expedited by the developer for a fee. The review's content is the same, but timing of publication has been prioritized.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
James Orchard Halliwell
Stella 28 Limited
10 - 15 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 3 - 8
English • French • German •Japanese •
This version of the 3 little pigs follows the traditional version of the story, as described here by Wikipedia:
The Three Little Pigs was included in The nursery rhymes of England (London and New York, c.1886), by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps. The story in its arguably best-known form appeared in English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, first published in 1890 and crediting Halliwell as his source.
The story begins with the title characters being sent out into the world by their mother, to "seek their fortune". The first little pig builds a house of straw, but a wolf blows it down and the pig runs to his brother's house. The second pig builds a house of sticks and when he sees his brother he lets him in, with the same ultimate result. Each exchange between wolf and pig features ringing proverbial phrases, namely:
"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
"No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin."
"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down."
The third pig builds a house of hard bricks and he lets his brothers in when he sees them. The wolf fails to blow down the house. He then attempts to trick the pigs out of the house, but the pigs outsmart him at every turn. Finally, the wolf resolves to come down the chimney, whereupon the pigs boil a pot of water in which the wolf lands and is cooked.
The story uses the literary rule of three, expressed in this case as a "contrasting three", as the third pig's brick house turns out to be the only one which is adequate to withstand the wolf.